Multimode PC Card

17 Jul 2003

Product: Nokia D211 Radio Card

Price: €429

Mobile data is all the rage these days. In a time of stagnant desktop PC sales, notebooks are performing tremendously well. Needless to say, people are always on the lookout for ways to connect while away from their desk. The product under review, the Nokia D211 manages to incorporate a little bit of everything when it comes to mobile data. For such a modest looking gadget, it packs an awful lot under the hood and definitely comes in as one of the most useful pieces of kit we’ve reviewed to date.

Much has been written about Wireless LAN (or Wi-Fi) and its potential to provide fast and cheap wireless internet access. In tandem with this development, mobile networks have been improving on the data front. The launch of GPRS significantly improved mobile data services and the expected arrival of 3G during the next year will mark another important stepping stone.

The Nokia D211 card is being marketed and subsidised by O2 in Ireland and is the operator’s rival offering to the recently reviewed Vodafone Mobile Connect card. However, the Nokia card is also available as a stand-alone product and can be used with other mobile networks.

The D211 is a PCMCIA card for laptop PCs. Essentially it’s a three-in-one device, incorporating Wireless LAN, GPRS and GSM data services. The upshot is that you can use the one device to get online from virtually any location. The card includes a slot for a mobile SIM card, allowing it to act as a mobile phone in addition to being a Wireless card.

While you could use your existing SIM card with this product, to a certain extent it defeats the purpose and it’s probably far more convenient to get an extra SIM which you can leave in the card permanently.

Setting up the card did have its problems, but we suspect this may have been more to do with the notebook we were reviewing it with rather than the card itself. The D211 comes with its own installation CD which installs all the appropriate drivers along with management software. The card works by creating different profiles and switching between them as needs be.

Creating a Wireless LAN profile proved to be a cinch and we had it up and running within a minute on our own wireless network. GPRS and GSM proved to be a little more difficult and we had to spend some time on the phone to O2 technical support. Thankfully the representative figured out what the problem was and talked us through setting up GPRS and GSM profiles.

With this out of the way, it worked a treat. Switching to a mobile connection simply involved clicking on the card’s icon in the system tray, selecting the GPRS profile and then activating it. Performance and data rates were as good as any we’ve seen from conventional GPRS phones.

Other things we liked were the inclusion of monitoring tools to measure things such as signal quality and data rates both over Wireless LAN and GPRS or GSM connections. Another potentially useful application included is SMS, allowing you to send and receive text messages on your notebook PC.

All in all we were very impressed by the product. If you’re a regular notebook user who finds themselves frequently out and about, it’s worth considering. The GPRS facility allows you to get online with the minimum of fuss and saves the hassle of having to physically or wirelessly connect to a mobile phone. The Wireless LAN facility allows you to connect to the growing number of hotspots around that cater for the business traveller. The D211 is a nice, neat, catch-all solution to mobile data.

By Dick O’Brien